Friday, September 11, 2009

Entrepreneurial Hot Dog Guy

I was introduced to a young woman yesterday named Kellee who truly impressed me. I have a "coach" that I use certain things relating to my entrepreneurial world, and occasionally this process presents the opportunity to help others. This was the case with Kellee and she, like many (but not all) young professionals had set out to network and make things happen.

I like this in young folks. The "go-get-um" attitude, the "I don't know everything but you do" approach to rubbing elbows with those who might have something to give. Ego, that is what I am talking about. Successful people have egos so when we get asked to share our stories, game on. And giving is in our culture. Pfoodman has a long history of helping others achieve, dolling out information, advise, money, resources for a slew of categories. When ego comes in to play, that is where some of the best stuff comes spewing out from me and the others involved in Pfoodman.

I am thankful that I was asked by Kellee, what she should do to "get to know the business community". It just so happens that I needed to carve out a presentation for some students at Lindenwood and this would be good fodder. So I started pontificating. The result is this post, by the way....

She's from Texas and finishing her certifications for counseling in these next few years. She has an undergrad from Vanderbilt and worked in the business sector in Nashville for quite a while. This kid is pretty high caliber and very sharp. But moving to St. Louis presents a challenge for her. She feels an outsider versus the insider that she had become comfortable with in Nashville. Her question was: "How do I find out who is who and what is what?" and "What companies are those most likely needing my unique combination of Organizational Development and Counseling degrees?

...somebody must have told her about our less than perfect OD....I would bet that most people in my position think this of their own operations...I hope so anyway...

So I had to explain my "hot dog" guy concept--that I am basically just a hot dog guy and (for strategic purposes) what I have to say is likely a little over the top and unconventional in regard to the traditionalist's of the St. Louis market place. Because I reside in the hot dog guy suit and live in the hot dog guy world, I have to think outside the box in relationship to my surroundings, because doing so has lifted me a little higher than my personal label, over time, and with consistency. Strip me of the titles, pageantry and pedestal, I am still just a hot dog guy with a little bit of creative process in getting the word out.

I don't like the conventional, the traditional, the day to day paradigm of fitting in under somebody understanding of the way things should be. I hate what my competition does and rarely make time to study it, unless it fits the Blue Ocean model for success and, if that is the case, I am on it.

I mentioned to Kellee that I thought St. Louis to be a "conservative entrepreneurial economy" which translates into friggin boring for my regular blog readers. I shudder to think that Kellee reads this blog someday, without first understanding the raw nature of its content and the "tell it like it is" perspective that I feel is so important to those trying to break in to the world of business and entrepreneurship. I try and speak the truth and put it out there in a way that most folks can understand. So there is integrity in my rawness, the hot dog guy is wired that way and it goes without saying that an entrepreneurial approach to getting anything in life is key.

What she was really asking is: "What do I need to do to get noticed?"

And I am not at all slamming old Bald Guy for his comments. Just providing some contrast. But Kevin chimes in, my partner, "go and get the St. Louis Business Journals Book of Lists and begin the process of dividing the companies into what might best be suitable for employment opportunities. Then carve out your resume and talent transcript to the unique qualities of those companies, or something like that. I almost fell asleep before he finished and started fiddling for my ipod. Not at all what I was thinking from HDG perspective.

I actually think it was good advice. The first thing you need to discover when coming to a new town, boring economy or not, is who the employers are. It is a great way to gain perspective and the local business journal is key to getting the skinny. I would, however, be careful fitting in to the old method of gaining employment by sifting through human resource departments in the traditional fashion and within the standard and conventional dolling out of information. You have to take control! It starts with a personal brand.

Back in 1994 I started the concept Pfoodman. It was a nickname my father came up with. I had been in the restaurant business and so had he. Back in the day we would always make a play on the letters, putting a "P" in front of any "F" in daily language. It was stupid Pfamily Pfun, get it? And back in his day, when he ran for President of the the Missouri Young Democrats, and won based on some unique signage/branding that read: " Pfremmer Pfor Pfresident". It was just stupid enough to gain attention and it was successful in getting him where he wanted to go.

...damn, this small vignette from my past created that which holds the most significance in everything we do from a marketing perspective...

This was the idea behind the start of my brand in 1994 and since the web was starting to kick in, my email address subsequently became Pfoodman. I was in the restaurant business--what I think today as being over glamorized and lacking in reality based concepts. I prefer to be the hot dog guy and thank Russ Hunt for enlightening me to its true meaning, which is a paradox in itself as it relates to who is the most important people in this world. Regardless, I didn't know how to break out into something more significant until I started listening to my inner voice. I relied on my intuition and started with the email address Pfoodman, on an AOL account.

Little did I know that it would be the catalyst to the beginning of something great. And I can't take full responsibility either. This with the help, loyalty and optimism of many people much smarter and much more patient than I.

...being naked on stage--what I would look like stripped of the support, loyalty and devotion of those choosing me as a leader...

My next "connecting of the dots" was to take advantage of the early blog and/or website templates that were available for free. I created, an online culinary solutions page where I could "do stuff with". The objective was to provide a glimpse into the mind of a young food professional and establish a presence on the web using my brand. I started writing and commenting on stuff, started getting hits, more writing, more hits, pictures of stuff, more hits etc. This is now called the Ralph Account and it has certainly gotten the attention and has become a part of our marketing program, receiving 400-500 hits per week during my peak writing months, usually September thru March.

I did this as a hobby, without much of a connection to business. I was employed with another company that I would soon compete with. Pfoodman had the right of first usage by the presence on the web, by the way. So when I went to trademark the brand, it would have been pretty tough for somebody to take it. Regardless of its obscurity. Pfoodman also became a guerrilla marketing technique, a cause marketing brand that I used to help some local bike races with charities behind them. I donated some food to the MS Society for a couple events using the Pfoodman logo for lack of a better brand. Soon I began to get phone calls for catering.

Later, when our company had grown and we faced the need to create a unique image, it was Pfoodman that had the story telling behind it. Pfoodman projects revenues to be in the area of 20 million near the end of 2012.

And the story telling doesn't stop there...Wapiti, Lone Wolf, Brown Dog Blues Band, HDG!

...if it is all I am ever good at, connecting dots and telling stories, then my life is pretty damn good...

There is a unique blend of conventional and unconventional process needed in order to become noticed in any economy. There are tangible things and intangible things that on must do in order to rise to the top. I strongly recommend the latter. As intangible as the process was for Pfoodman, it provided results in our ability to get noticed over the long term. From there it was on to the basics of performance: over delivery of quality and emphasis on value added benefit to our clients. Emergence happens, but it is rarely driven by somebody else's rules. Start by creating your own brand with your own rules and seek to provide value to those organizations you qualify as within your culture. Simply connect the dots from there...

...I suppose I am pretty darned happy with this one...



patchkit said...

Thanks R.P. I enjoyed that. Good stuff.

gwiz said...

Your story is uniquely ununique. I mean that in the nicest of ways... I'm just saying that that's realy how any entreprenuer starts out, finding their place in the market. Finding out how their product or service can fit the peoples want's and needs, and then being smart enought to exploit it. It's always enjoyable to hear how someone found their launchpad to life. I enjoyed yours. When will you be heading up to Marshall? There's great trails calling your name.


Cowtown youngin

Chet said...

Hot Dog man? Ya know, we really ought to think about a LWCC version. Maybe wapiti sausage!

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Garret, I am coming on Wed. but have to head out right away. I would like to come up and do Landahl soon. You got a cross bike? You should race it.

Gwiz said...

Indeed I do. But unlike the rest of these cross guru's, I won't be racing cross till December. Mtb season is still in full swing thru October and then I'll be resting up November. It's been a long year. It's in the process of being recoated, striped down, rebuilt, and turned into a SS.

Landahl is prime right now, so is Swope. Shoot me an email when you come up this way,